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					Lesson: Galaxy Trading Cards

This lesson contains features of NASA’s lesson called Group the Galaxies as well as a
NASA-MSU project called Galactic Inquiry.

Time: Can be cut if necessary, but might run as long as 2 90-minute blocks.

Focus: Grade 9 Earth Science, but adaptable to other grades

SOL: ES.14 The student will investigate and understand scientific concepts related
      to the origin and evolution of the universe. Key concepts include
      a) nebulae;
      b) the origin of stars and star systems;
      c) stellar evolution;
      d) galaxies; and
      e) cosmology including the big bang theory.

By completing this activity, the learner will:

      recognize that galaxies are collections of billions of stars.
      understand that galaxies take a variety of forms.
      develop and apply a galactic classification scheme.
      comprehend that galaxies are classified in four major categories.

Previous knowledge: Students understand that galaxies are composed of stars,
dust, and gas, and are held together by gravity. They may have read this in a
textbook, or discussed in class, etc.


Teacher needs a computer with projector
Students will be in groups, but it would be best to have one computer per student
Students will need scissors

Interent Resources:

Google Sky – A new part of Google Earth
Download a Sky Map of the Southern Sky here
Your Sky Tonight, a guide from the Virginia DOE
Galaxies Galore, Games and More
Galaxy Q&As from NASA, for teachers
New York Times article on the Southern Sky
Southern Sky Telescopic Club
Information on galaxies
The Messier Catalog
A great site on the NGC-IC Project

The NGC/IC Project is an attempt to correctly identify all of the original NGC and IC
objects, starting with the original discoverer's notes and working forward in time to
encompass the work of contemporary astronomers, both professional and amateur,
such that the identity of each of the NGC and IC objects is known with as much
certainty as we can reasonably bring to it from the existing historical record.

Teacher begins lesson by showing Power of Ten video:

1. Teacher explains that students will do “hands-on” work with galaxies, and will be
making galaxy trading cards.
2. Students will learn about how galaxies are classified and how different they are
from one another.
3. Students will gather data on galaxies and write it on their cards.
4. Students will use Google Sky to look at more galaxies, and also take an image of
a galaxy with a real telescope.

Teacher may want to explain Share the Skies telescope at this point, or wait until
later. Teacher tells students that they will each be responsible for a number of
cards, and that the cards will be graded. Possible grading criteria: completeness,
neatness, accuracy.

Part One: Create galaxy trading cards.

Organize students into groups of 3 or 4. Using computers, students will link to the
galaxy photos on this sheet. Have students copy the photos into a PowerPoint
(here’s an example.) Students will run off copies of their presentations, on card
stock if available. Cut the print-outs so that you have 1 card per galaxy – fold the
card to that you have the photo on one side, with the rest blank. Each group will
end up with 17 galaxy cards (one will be blank until they get to the real telescope
and take an image).

Activity: Students spread out their cards and work to create a way of classifying the
galaxies based on their appearance. Each group will fill out a chart like this:

                                                Defining Characteristics
        Galaxy            Galaxy ID
                                             (provide enough detail so that
        Classification    Numbers
                                            anyone could use your scheme)
        Category I                         Galaxy Classification
        Category II                        Galaxy Classification
        Category III                       Galaxy Classification
        Category IV                        Galaxy Classification

Task Two: Applying Hubble’s Classification Scheme
When students have finished their own classification, have them look at Edwin
Hubble’s scheme (linked to a computer file, or as a handout). Have students place
the same 15 photos into this new table.

                                                 Defining Characteristics
         Hubble's        Galaxy ID
                                              (provide enough detail so that
         Catagories      Numbers
                                             anyone could use your scheme)
         Category E                        Galaxy Classification
         Category S                        Galaxy Classification
         Category SB                       Galaxy Classification
         Category        Galaxy
                                           Galaxy Classification
         Irregular       Classification

Activity: Have groups compare and contrast the two schemes. Which did they

Part Two: Catalogs

Teacher will say that many scientists over the ages have tried to categorize space
objects. Hubble gave categories to types of galaxies, but there are schemes for
identifying individual stars, galaxies, nebulae, etc., in space. Briefly talk about the
Messier Catalog and the NGC, and show those sites on a projector.

Part Three: Investigate the Galaxies

Each group should have 16 cards (and one blank). Have students divide the cards
evenly, and research their galaxies on Wikipedia and the NGC/IC. Students should
alternate between these sources, and the teacher might ask about the quality of
information contained in each. Was there a difference?

On the inside of each card, have students record:

Galaxy Type
Right Ascension
Notable characteristics
Year of Discovery
Name of Person Who Discovered the Galaxy
*Students may not find all this information on each galaxy.

Task Four: Google Sky/Share the Skies

Teacher explains that students will now look at galaxies another way – by using
Google Sky as well as a real telescope. The Share the Skies telescope is housed
inside the Pingelly Heights Observatory in Pingelly, Western Australia, located at 32º
30.846' south latitude and +117º 05.283' east longitude, at an altitude of 148
meters, or 485 feet. This location provides optimal viewing in the darkest night skies
of Australia, where light pollution is minimal.

Be sure that students understand that this is a “deep sky” telescope – students
cannot look at our moon or neighboring planets, but (reference the Power of 10)
objects much further away from us.

Students will be able to take an image of a galaxy, in real time, and make a card
from it.

Using a projector and computer, the teacher will locate Southwestern Australia on
Google Earth (to be more specific, put in the coordinates given above). This is
where the telescope is located. Teacher shows that if Google Earth is set to one
position, when students switch to Google Sky, the skies above that point on earth
will be shown. Students working on Google Sky may want to identify galaxies that
they would like to find on the telescope.

The teacher distributes Sky Maps of the Southern Sky, and reviews time change.

1. Google Sky task: Remaining in groups, students will go to Google Sky and locate
the galaxies on their cards. They may search by the Messier/NGC number, or by
Right Ascension/Declination. The teacher may differentiate this task, in that
searching by RA/D is more difficult. To do that, students would press the tab:
Location Search and enter RA/D exactly like this.

13:29:52.7 , 47:11:43 (These are the coordinates for M51.)

If teacher needs students to be more focused, they could be asked to add
information to their galaxy cards from Google Sky.

2. Share the Skies task: The teacher will work with groups, one at a time, on the
Share the Skies Telescope. The teacher needs to remain by the computer where
students are using the telescope. Other groups will work independently on Google

The teacher will login to the telescope and have students look at the sky map.
Students will attempt to image a galaxy, which they can locate on the software or on
their hardcopy sky chart. The teacher will explain “slewing” and show students that
they can enter a common name or a catalog number to identify their galaxy. The
teacher will explain the features of the camera and talk about exposures. The
teacher will determine the best settings for the galaxy, and take an image. The
image should be saved to a location where students can then print it and make a
galaxy card for the one they just found.

Reflection: Teacher asks: What did students learn that they didn’t know before?
How was the real telescope different from Google Sky? (Note: do students think
Google Sky is “live?” How do they think Google Sky was created?)

Optional: Students can “play fish” with their deck of galaxy cards by using either
their own or the Hubble classification system.
Assessment: Students put their names on the cards they completed and turn in to
teacher. Teacher sets criteria for grading at beginning of lesson.

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